It’s not polite to draw a distinction between musicians and artists. Most, if not all, musicians consider themselves as such. The unfortunate truth is that genuine artistry is no more common in modern music than it is in 21st century arts reporting.
Take Cairo, Egypt’s Omar El Abd (omrr) as an example. The 34-year-old self-taught music producer is the real thing. His take on ambient/new classical/glitch/noise is nothing short of masterful. And his latest effort, Devils for my Darling, ranks among the year’s best discs.
It opens with “Quicksands,” and a gentle gamelan-like introduction. Set against soft noise and electronics, it will draw you in right from the start. There’s an intricacy to omrr’s work, but never so much that you’ll feel overwhelmed. His attention to even the most minute detail is balanced by an ever-present gentleness.
“Ink We Spill” comes next. Its highlight is a gently strummed acoustic guitar that plays off of the electronics wonderfully. “Lunatics” has a similarly lush feel.
The album’s longest piece is the eight-and-a-half-minute “Aquiver.” It begins in a glitch-drone vein, and then transitions sharply into a lovely solo piano. Over the course of the track, omrr introduces surface noise, electronics, washes of synthesizer and field recordings.
What could be a simple collage exercise in the hands of a lesser artist is something entirely different with omrr at the controls. The album’s centerpiece reveals this young man’s genius at pulling together a variety of sound sources, to produce an intensely musical result.
Devils for my Darling was released by the Moscow label Dronarivm on Sept. 22.